Day 24: O, Holy Night!

image from pinterest.com

It’s Christmas Eve! Wow…that went fast.

If you’re like me, now is the time to cuddle up with the kids and savor the silence. Gather your family around a fire or candle tonight and say a family prayer for peace tonight.

Give your kids each a new set of Christmas jammies (an important tradition in our home) and let them open one special gift. For us, this is the gift they have for each other — the sibling gift. We started this tradition when they were very young, and it has become one of most special events of the holiday season.

Whether you are on the road or opening doors to extended family members, try to dedicate this night to focus on what matters most: faith, family, and friends.

Merry Christmas!

j

Day 2: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh – Three Reasons to Limit the Number of Gifts Under Your Tree

Image by SimplyCindyBlog.com

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” – Matthew 2

As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December. One of the things we learn about the birth of Jesus is that he was visited by wise men who offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Most scholars believe Jesus would have likely been one or two years old by the time they found him, and these gifts would not have been typical offerings to a young child. I won’t go into the theological arguments about how many wise men really existed, whether they originated from Yemen, Iran, or Egypt, or the cultural roles of Zoroastrianism and Judaism in the region at that time, but I encourage you to learn more if you’re interested. Religious history is a fascinating subject to study, no doubt.

What I will note is the number of gifts we believe were offered. Three.

Think about that for a minute. Jesus was being honored as a new-born King. He had been discussed in the scriptures by prophets, announced by a significant celestial event (referred to commonly as a New Star), protected by angels, and targeted by Kind Herod as a threat. He was kind of a Big Deal…and these visitors were not your average guests. They were wealthy, wise, and probably the equivalent of kings in their own regions. Yet, they offered only three simple gifts.

This is something I stress to my children each holiday season when their Wish Lists get longer and longer. I stole the idea from a dear friend many years ago, when she shared her family’s tradition of giving only three gifts to each of their children. “If it’s good enough for Christ, it’s certainly good enough for my kids,” she joked. But the thought has stuck with me as one that really makes sense.

Another friend shared a similar idea today on Pinterest, expanding the rule to Four Gifts (based on a blogpost by giventolove.com).

Image by Givetolove.com

In a world of excess, materialism, and a fierce desire to keep up with the Joneses, I hope you and your loved ones find a way to simplify this Christmas season and focus on the many, many gifts that really matter in your lives — including each other.

For today’s family activity, learn more about the Magi or wise men who traveled to find Jesus. Make the hand print picture shown above (originally found on SimplyCindyBlog.com).

Help your little ones play dress up using robes and dish towels to roleplay the wise men’s visit to Jesus. Discuss the importance of giving to others, and let toddlers “wrap” three “gifts” for Baby Jesus (have fun letting them chose various items around the house they think are special).

Older children can learn more about the nativity story and spend time looking at the stars tonight. Your family can learn about the traditional holiday calendar for Christians.

Advent – (11/28-12/24) Preparation for Christ’s arrival.
Christmas Eve – (12/24) The Night Before Christmas.
Christmas Day – (12/25) Celebration of the birth of Jesus.
The Twelve Days of Christmas – (12/25-1/5) Twelve days starting Christmas night until the day before Epiphany.

Epiphany – (1/6) Also known as Three Kings’ Day celebrates the visit of the Magi.

For more information about the religious reasons behind the Christmas holiday as well as a great list of links to helping kids understand these traditions, visit: http://kingskidstuff.com/christian/wise-men-epiphany/#comment-36439

Peace,

j

Help Children Live Without Fear

      

Looking for the ideal gift for the little ones in your life? For less than $10/each, you can remind children they are safe, they are loved, and they are never alone.

In these books, written for my own children, endearing animal photos and simple verse remind youngsters that God is always with them.

Order online through your favorite bookseller.

To request signed/personalized copies, please contact Square Books, Jr. in Oxford, MS. http://www.squarebooks.com/junior

Happy Reading!

To Speak or Not to Speak

I’ve been quiet lately. It’s hard for those who know me best to believe it, but it’s true. In recent weeks, I’ve been blessed with a few spare moments of time to be alone. Not lonely. But alone. And it’s been an incredible gift.

I’ve had time to examine my life and my priorities, and I’ve had time to get to know myself again in a way I have missed for years. Most mothers are just like me. We run from one responsibility to the next, taking care of everyone and everything except ourselves. Not only had I been driving with my gas light on, my tank was beyond depleted. My engine had stalled, and it was time to make some hard choices. Some doors were closed. Some opened. And I ended up right where I needed to be.

Now, after catching up on peace and quiet and prayer and oh-so-sweet-and-sacred sleep…I feel rejuvenated and renewed. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.

The transition was complete yesterday. Our daughter was baptized and confirmed, and we all joined the church…our first time to make that committment since college years. While we have visited many and have even been very involved in some churches, we never took the jump. There was always something holding us back.

During the service yesterday, Claire Dobbs referenced St. Francis of Assisi with one of my favorite quotes. I thought I’d share it with you today, and then….I’ll go back to being quiet.

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” – Francis of Assisi

Meaningful Easter Gifts

Looking for a last-minute Easter gift that will send a positive, inspirational message about faith?

God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night are ideal for kids birth through third grade.

 Order signed/personalized copies from Square Books, Jr. in Oxford, MS. by calling 1.662.236.2207, or order from your favorite online book retailer.

Happy Easter!

Start School without Tears or Fears

GodDay
 
Are your little ones anxious about starting school? Young children may be reluctant to leave the safety of home and enter the big world without Mom by their side.
God is with Me through the Day is an ideal book to share with your children before that big day. This light-hearted photographic picturebook will help them overcome their fears while building their faith in God.
 
GodNight
 
Plus — If those fears are carrying over into the night, then the partner book, God is with Me through the Night, is your key to a good night’s sleep.
 
Find these books at a store near you, or visit your favorite online bookseller today.
 Amazon.com           BarnesandNoble.com            Zondervan.com

 

Poof! Summer has Vanished!

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I know I’m not the first one to say this, but seriously — I can’t believe school will be starting August 6.

If you’re like me, you remember LONG summers as a child. Three months away from the classroom, the dress codes, and any form of structured activity. It was a season of free thought, free play, and freedom.

Every summer, I spent five mornings at Vacation Bible School snacking on Kool-Aid and butter cookies – the ones you could slide onto your fingers and wear as diamond rings. My mom piled us into the car every Tuesday to join friends at their aunt’s swimming pool. And each year, we’d make the five-hour trek to Destin, Florida for a full week of sun, sand, and surf.

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Other than that, my mother, brother, and I were at home, mixing pitchers of lemonade and turning on the sprinkler to avoid melting in the vicious Louisiana heat. But I never once felt bored. In fact, I loved every minute of summer. I played with friends in the woods, fields, and ditches around my house. And when afternoon storms forced us under the carport or into the forbidden zone of “indoors,” we acted out scenes from our favorite films, pretended to be in a band, or made ourselves content with games of cards, Yahtzee, or Monopoly. Time was a gift, and we knew enough to appreciate every second of it.

Maybe I’m being a little too sentimental, but in those days life was simple. Life was good.

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Now, no matter how much we insist we’re not going to over plan our summers, our children end up racing from church camp to science camp to ecology camp, with art, piano, tumbling, and sleepovers scheduled in between. Add to that a week in Hawaii, a week at their grandmother’s, and a few short road trips — and before you know it, summer has vanished. Poof! Nine weeks have flown right past us, and I have no choice but to accept the fact that I am now old enough to be a mother of a middle-schooler! (YIKES!)

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Nothing scares me more than sending my sweet baby girl off to the wolves of junior high. I remember those middle school years. Girls can be cruel. Boys can be relentless. Life’s temptations and trials are thrown at you from every angle, and you aren’t even given time to develop a defense. You walk into battle unarmed and naïve, a drummer boy on the front line.

I just hope and pray that we’ve given her enough strength to have a true sense of self, a real value of individuality, and a clear vision of which relationships are healthy and which are not. She’ll make mistakes – we all do. As parents we just hope (and pray, pray, pray) that those mistakes are ones that don’t end her life, or ruin it.

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As we send our children off to school again this year, I feel a little like the animals in my books. Afraid. Unsure. Full of doubt. I have to remind myself – many times a day – that there is no reason to fear. That God is with them, even when I’m not.

Blessings to you and yours this school season. May you all have a happy, healthy return to the classroom.

j

Summer Hiatus

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I hope you’re all enjoying a fabulous summer in the sun. Like most of you, I am trying to soak up every single second with my family this summer. I will resume author visits in August.

Please contact me  to schedule a visit to your school, church, mothers’ group, library, or store: juliepcantrell@bellsouth.net

Thanks kindly for your continued support. I hope the books are bringing tons of smiles and snuggles to you and your kiddos this season.